Category Archives: anxiety

My anxiety is sky high — and it’s exausting

I’m exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot of fighting in the last 48 hours. Not with anyone else, but with myself.

I’ve been trying to tame the monsters in my head, and I have not succeeded. I have succeeded in not leaving my apartment, and for the most part, not leaving my own bed. That’s not good. I know it. And I don’t care.

I’m not sure what brought on my latest bout with anxiety. I’m almost never sure. As I posted yesterday, one of the most frustrating things about social anxiety disorder is that it’s not logical at all. All I know is, I heard people with loud voices talking outside my apartment, and it set off something within me. I do not want to be around noise. Or people.

It so happens that I have an appointment with my psycho pharm today. I will bring myself to go to that, if only because I know that most of my meds need refilled, and I want to make sure they get refilled.

I try to fight this as best I can. The fact that I care about my meds is proof of that. But the monsters in my head are formidable opponents, and I get so tired of fighting them. The second I got up this morning, my first thought was “you are so dead.” I have no idea why I thought that. But there it was.

I’m going to keep fighting. But it’s so damn hard. And I’m so damn tired.

5 things that people living with anxiety probably won’t tell you

I found this article on Facebook today and I relate to it so much. As I type this, I don’t want to leave my apartment. Why? Two of my neighbors who have loud voices are having a conversation outside my apartment. They’re not arguing. They’re just talking in their very loud voices.

I know this, but right now, I’m afraid of both of them. I don’t want to leave my apartment until I can no longer hear them. Is that ridiculous? Yes. Do I know this? Yes. But I still feel this way. That’s what makes anxiety even more frustrating.

Read the article here.

Choice: a tricky word for people with mental illness

Last night, I visited one of my best friends. If I told you he was fighting colon cancer, he’d be the first to correct me about that.

As he was reclining on his lounger, watching MSNBC, and doing his best to look comfortable despite two catheters, a deep incision in his abdomen, and his now having to wear Depends, John, almost out of nowhere, says “I don’t see myself as fighting cancer. I see myself as someone with a choice. I can look toward the sun, or I can look away from the sun. I’m looking toward the sun.”

With that, my eyes watered. I couldn’t get what John said out of my mind–especially the word “choice.”

As someone managing chronic depression and anxiety, “choice” is a tricky word, one which can easily cause me to become defensive. That’s because there are still too many people who believe that my illnesses are my “choice,” and that they’d be gone “if I really put my mind to it.”

No, my illnesses are not my choice. But what I do about them, and how I handle them? Well, those are choices.

John also has depression and anxiety. Maybe that’s why, when he saw my eyes water, he continued. “I came so close to ending my life on my own. Maybe that’s why I think about choices the way that I do.”

In an odd way, John’s cancer is giving his mental illness a run for its money. If his mental illness has told him that he wants to die, he now very much wants to live. John still doesn’t know if his cancer is incurable. If he has two more years on this earth, he will be very lucky.

Maybe that’s what makes what he said all the more meaningful to me. I know damn well that there will be days ahead where he’ll find it difficult, if not impossible, to look toward the sun. I know he knows it, too. But, just by being his honest self, John has really inspired me.


Fear and crossing the street in Boston

Boston traffic

This is what I often face when I cross streets in Boston. No wonder I’m afraid. 

“Show no fear!”

That’s what a young hipster girl with short cropped red hair shouted at me as I tried to cross a busy street. It was a two-lane street with cars going in the same direction, and there was a lot of traffic. A driver slowed down and signaled me to cross. I said no. I never agree to this when there are two lanes of traffic going the same way, because who knows if the driver in the other lane will be as kind.

Yet another driver signaled for me to cross. Yet again, no way. Then I third driver. Uh uh. I looked and saw traffic coming as far as I could see. And I thought that I needed to make a move if I was ever going to get across this street.

That’s when Hipster Girl shouted at me. I guess in her own way, she meant to be helpful. Still, this just isn’t a good thing to say to someone with Anxiety Disorder. Of course, she had no clue that I have Anxiety Disorder, though she must have seen the fear on my face. If only I could tell Hipster Girl that I am afraid — not only of crossing the street, but of a million other things. Telling me to show no fear is like telling Donald Trump to show some class.

I must say, though, that when it comes to crossing streets in Boston, I honestly believe that my anxiety is justified. Boston prides itself with being one of America’s most walkable cities — until you have to cross a street. Too few streets have walk signals, and the ones that do exist are hopelessly out-of-date and out-of-sync. Here’s an old Boston joke. How do you cross the street in Boston? You run for your life and pray.

But in this situation, I stood like a statue. Hipster Girl noticed.

“Show no fear!”

Oh, how I’d like to. Girl, you have no idea.

But, as embarrassed as I was, I slowly stepped from the sidewalk and on to the street. I got bold. And drivers did yield to me. I made it across the street.

I should thank Hipster Girl for giving me a jolt. But I face anxiety in some way just about every waking hour.

“Show no fear!”

Maybe I need to remember that voice. Maybe I need to tell myself this over and over. Maybe if I do this long enough, I’ll actually believe it.







Waking up with anxiety, or how my beard trimmer scared the bejesus out of me

Me post-anxiety, with my goatee.

Me post-anxiety, with my nice, trim goatee.

This morning, I woke up to a major anxiety attack. On my personal scale of 10, I’d call this one a 7. I was shaking, my heart was pounding, and I could barely speak, even to myself.

I knew what the cause was. But first, a little back story. I recently grew a goatee. I really just wanted a change, and people have told me I look good with it. But I realized that if I want to keep it looking nice, I’d have to trim it occasionally, and my old razor wouldn’t do. So, last night, I bucked up and bought myself a beard trimmer. This morning, I planned to use it for the first time.

And THAT is what scared me. Yes, that’s right. My beard trimmer scared me. What if all the parts aren’t there? What if the instructions are shitty, and I can’t figure out what parts go where? What if I shave myself all wrong and wind up looking like some degenerate alien from a horror movie? 

I’m almost embarrassed to say how normal this thinking is for me. For pretty much anything that I have to open up and assemble in some way, my nerves shoot up through the roof.

One of my doctors who specializes in anxiety always tells me that there’s really only one way to overcome it: you have to do whatever it is that scares you. So, this morning, after I did some breathing exercises to calm myself down a bit, I began opening the beard trimmer package.

I brought one of those gizmos that could trim not only my beard, but almost any kind of hair on my body. As I happen to be very hairy, I figured this was a good thing. To my relief, the package included pictures to show what nozzle I should use to shave the arms, the legs — and yes, even pubic hair. (Let’s just say the photo did not go very far down, but I got the picture.) As the most commonly used razor head was already attached, all I had to do was push the button.

And just like that, I started trimming my goatee. I remembered the advice of a friend of mine who has a goatee: in order to trim without removing the hair, just hold the shaver a little further away from the skin surface. That’s what I did. In about 2 minutes, a had a nicely manicured goatee — and calm nerves.

I’m proud to say that I’m no longer afraid of my beard trimmer. But I know damn well that my anxiety will kick up again with the next new gizmo I face. I’ll be nervous. But, at least with nice, trim tufts of face hair, I’ll be a better looking nervous wreck.

Songs I love: April 5th, by Elvis Costello, Roseanne Cash, and Kris Kristofferson

This is a gorgeous new song that I can’t get out of my head. Only, it’s not really a new song. Elvis Costello, Roseanne Cash, and Kris Kristofferson recorded it several years ago, but it was never officially released. Elvis recently included it on his new CD, and now the song is finally getting attention.

It’s a song about having fears and wanting things, but not having what it takes to get those things. Yet it’s also about human connection and understanding. As someone managing depression and anxiety, I can relate to every word of this, especially the bridge of the song:

I’m not afraid
And I refuse to be
I can’t fall
There’s nothing to stop me

Take a listen.

Hey, people. If you want to say “hi” to me, do NOT honk your horn.

As someone with anxiety disorder, here is something I will never understand: how, in the world, can a honking car horn ever be construed as a “hello.”

Just a few minutes ago, I was contentedly taking a walk in my neighborhood. I had just purchased some bargain books at my favorite bookstore, and I was trying to find an outside bench to sit and start reading. I was crossing the street when, suddenly, the harsh blare of a car horn ruined my solitude. When I heard it, I did what I always do when I hear a car horn: I jumped, and hurried out of the way as fast as I could.

As I was about to finish crossing the street, I heard someone calling my name from the car. I turned. He was laughing at me. “Alan, I was trying to say hi to you. I didn’t want you to jump out the way.”

Didn’t want me to jump out of the way??? Then why the hell did he honk at me? To make matters worse, this wasn’t even someone I wanted to say hi to. This was someone who was an acquaintance at best; someone who, if I had any real guts, I would have told him to fuck off a long time ago, and he wouldn’t even think of wanting to say hello to me ever again.

It was his laugh that really bothered me. His laugh told me that I was crazy for being so scared of a car horn. Maybe I am. The truth is, car horns have always scared the shit out of me. When I was a teenager, first learning how to drive, I was with my driving instructor when a car suddenly pulled out in front of me. The instructor asked why I didn’t honk at the driver. I said I was too scared to do that. The instructor–who, being a driving instructor, had probably seen and heard everything–looked at me as if his eyes were about to pop out of his head. “Really,” he yelped, trying to sound civil. “We’re seriously going to have to work on that.”

Even though I have indeed honked a few car horns since then, I’ve never learned to like them. Even with this latest incident, I was so startled that I no longer wanted to sit on a public bench and read my new books. I just wanted to get back to my apartment and be by myself. For better or worse, that’s what I did.

So people, do me a favor. If you’re in your car and you see me, roll down your window to say hi. Do NOT honk your horn. Ever. Even if I love you, this will, in that moment, make me hate you. I’m not kidding.

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